If we were to gauge anticipation based on legacy, id Software’s RAGE would be number one on this list, with few companies able to match id’s long and groundbreaking pedigree. You could spend hours arguing – and it’s the Internet, where being argumentative is almost the de rigueur demeanour one should portray at all times - whether or not Wolfenstein 3D was the first FPS. Argue away, no one is listening. The fact is: Wolfenstein 3D was the first FPS that mattered. Medal of Honor, SystemShock, Deus Ex, GoldenEye, Half-Life, Unreal Tournament – all games that id Software can safely say: “Thanks to us.”
Since its reveal at QuakeCon in 2007 there has been a steady stream of RAGE news and, in some cases, controversy. Depending on the month in question, RAGE either looks better on the PS3 or on the Xbox 360. The first theory is based on the claim that, because of the luxury the PS3′s Blu-ray storage capacity provides, textures in the Sony version are vastly superior. The Internet exploded. Wait a few weeks, however, and it was the 360′s turn to thumb its nose back at the opposition, with id Software’s legendary John Carmack stating to EDGE that the PS3 was lagging behind due to a slow rasteriser, the producer going so far as to suggest that, at the time of writing during the game’s development cycle, the 360 version was sprinting along at 60 frames per second compared to the PS3′s somewhat sluggish 20.
Judging a game based on its performance mid-stream is like calling a race with a thousand metres to go, however. Things change, technology improves, developers forgo sleep, and lo and behold, both console versions (usually) look identical when shipped. If there is one thing we’re certain of in this whole area, it’s that id’s new powerhouse engine, id Tech 5, is a monster, and, trust us, all bets are off when it comes to just what it’s capable of. If RAGE running on Tech 5 manages to liquidate your eyeballs at twenty feet with covert infrared rays in 2011, we wouldn’t be surprised.
New fancy technology is all well and good, but it’s the fact that id are introducing a new IP that has our interest especially piqued. The masters of DOOM and Quake, that they would try something different and take the risk with a new property is both welcome and intriguing. They could have just made another DOOM (they are making another DOOM), or introduced a new stagnant, vanilla FPS the masses would have likely lapped up. Not id. The guys decided to expand their lexicon a little and marry what they know best (shooting shit) with another popular genre (driving shit.)
Adding dune-buggy racing elements to a post-apocalyptic world may appear strange at first, but from what we’ve seen by way of footage of the driving aspect of RAGE, it all fits seamlessly. Sprinkle some RPG-lite garnish on top, and we may be looking at next year’s Borderlands. Not that id need the welcome comparison by any stretch of the imagination.
Plot wise, it’s deliciously simple yet enticing. After a comet slams into Earth and renders the planet inhabitable, the cryogenically frozen survivors – people deemed important to rebuild society after the proverbial dust has settled – wake up to find that other ‘people’ have also managed to outlive the blast. These folk have been less fortunate than their popsicle counterparts, however, with mutation and lawlessness now the order of the day in a shattered world unrecognisable to the genetically unmodified saviours.
It looks wonderful, it’s technically astounding, and it’s by id Software. RAGE is like finding a lost and previously unknown masterwork by a maestro such as da Vinci or Michelangelo. These guys know what they’re doing, and hence why RAGE could be one of the biggest games of 2011.